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Spiritual Direction is NOT Psychological Counseling

The psychological and physical aspects of our souls impact our spiritual lives. There is no easy way to extricate these realities from one another. Yet, just as you would not go to a spiritual director for physical therapy, it is also unwise to attempt to deal with deep psychological issues with a spiritual director (at least not one who has not received special training in both fields). It is true that the state of our spiritual lives can and will effect us emotionally. If these emotions prove to be a hindrance to your spiritual progress, they should be addressed with your spiritual director. Conversely, your spiritual life, as it grows, will positively impact your psychological and physical health. When emotional or psychological issues are serious, it is important to seek out those specially trained professionals that can help you as needed.

This is an excerpt from Dan’s book Navigating the Interior Life – Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God. To learn more, click here.


What is spiritual direction and my spiritual direction? What are my “blind spots” and how can I uncover them? What keeps me from all the spiritual riches Christ has for me? How can I better understand where I am in my spiritual progress?

Daniel Burke’s Navigating the Interior Life will give you the tools you need to understand how and why we grow and die in the spiritual life and what we can do about it.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Anne M.

    As someone who has both a spiritual director and a counselor I agree. Both of these people are aware that I see the other person on a regular basis. I am just finishing up with the counselor and there have been times when certain emotional issues have affected my spiritual life. My spiritual director knows the basic details of the emotional issues but we don’t discuss them in depth. I save that for the counselor. I have found that spiritual direction has helped tremendously with overcoming the emotional issues.

  • This reality is very true – both extremes are to be avoided. A balance of prayer and action are vital in the spiritual life. That’s not to say 50/50 – that would depend on each person and what God is calling them to do. God Bless!

  • Mary W.

    All true. Something very important to consider, though, is that if possible, one should strive to ensure that one’s counselor has an authentically Catholic spirituality so that therapy can can complement spiritual growth. Some Catholic therapists actually incorporate encouragement to develop one’s prayer life, frequent the sacraments, striving to grow in virtue, etc. is a great place to look for counselors that may meet that criterion.

    • LizEst

      Thank you for posting that link. Anti-Catholic therapists (too many to count) can do much harm to those not well-grounded in the faith who are at a very vulnerable time and space in their lives. It is worth looking into.

  • I fully agree with Mary W. In all matters Spiritual, it is always wise to ensure that one is dealing with a person who is mature and well grounded in the Catholic Faith. Otherwise one will be exposing oneself to difficulties when one is given advice that one knows is contrary to the Catholic Teachings and Precepts.

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